Responding to a national need for more specialists in science, technology, engineering and math, Louisburg College has invited nine rising seniors from Franklin County to spend a month this summer in its free residential STEM Institute, where they will earn four college credits studying environmental biology.
Starting June 24, students, led by Dr. Bob Bruck, Louisburg College’s dean for STEM programs and distinguished professor of environmental science, will learn to integrate what they’re taught in the classroom and in the field. They will stay in the residence halls and eat in Duke Dining Hall. They will go to class and lab each morning, then spend afternoons doing college-level research, data collection and analysis.
Dr. Diane Cook, professor of biology at Louisburg College, will work with half the students researching the effect of natural herbs and spices such as cloves and thyme on the growth and development of a non-pathogenic strain of e-coli. Dr. Dan Bartholomew, assistant professor of chemistry, will lead the other half in researching the effect of environmental factors – temperature, humidity, oxygen levels and acidity, among others – on the survival of tardigrades (little water bears, which are prevalent in mosses and lichens). The College’s 91-acre De Hart Botanical Gardens will be a research field.
Students will be tested frequently and will be expected to analyze the data they collect and then write a report and present their findings to students, professors, staff and parents. The program ends July 21.
With the generous help of a donor, the Institute aims to expose promising students from rural communities and other demographics not well represented in the fields of STEM to college life, academic rigor and research.
Enrollment in STEM programs nationwide is dropping, Dr. Bruck said. Pharmaceutical companies are hiring science professionals from Asia because the United States doesn’t have enough. The defense industry has made recruitment of STEM specialists a priority, Dr. Bruck said, noting the particular need for encryption experts.
The students invited for the inaugural year of the Summer Institute:
Louisburg High School: Ryan White of Youngsville; Mykel Yancey, Evelia Ramirez-Navarro and Allison Barlow of Louisburg; Yissel Lucas-Rebollar of Franklinton.
Bunn High School: Katie Hommel and Lauren Wheeler of Youngsville; Jonathan Little of Louisburg; Carmen Sparks of Zebulon.
“The most interesting part of STEM for me is science,” wrote White, of Louisburg High, who hopes to study pharmacy. “I have always loved science and figuring out how the world works.”